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Old Finkelstein's store being reborn as billiard hall, video arcade, nightclub


One of Towson's most visible landmarks is changing images. The old Finkelstein's store on York Road is trading in its family-oriented, department-store demeanor to become a billiard hall.

And video arcade. And ice cream parlor. And an under-21 weekend nightclub.

The Four Corners of Towson entertainment center is expected to open Aug. 10, replacing the store that closed in 1994, after 66 years at the site. "It gives kids something else to do," David Betz, vice president of Four Corners, said yesterday.

In recent months, teen loitering has been a problem in the heart of Towson, leading to vandalism, cursing and littering. An advisory group of community leaders and Baltimore County police has been searching for solutions for months.

But some local merchants wonder whether a billiard hall and arcade iswhat Towson needs.

LeRoy Y. Haile Jr., whose family's 73-year-old real estate agency is located nearby on Chesapeake Avenue, said, "It's not a very positive thing for the business or community. . . . It could be people lounging around. It could create the wrong image."

Mr. Betz plans to have 10 pool tables, up to 25 video arcade games, a stage for local bands to perform on Fridays and Saturdays, and an ice cream shop with a separate entrance.

His plans are similar to another proposal by Brian Recher, grandson of the former owners of the defunct Towson Theater in the 500 block of York Road. The competition doesn't worry Mr. Recher, who has not started any interior construction for his project, which calls for 16 billiard tables, arcade games and a restaurant with 42 tables.

"It'll be great. It'll be good for Towson," he said. "With more businesses, it will bring more people to Towson."

Mr. Recher, 35, would like to draw a variety of customers -- including senior citizens -- into his business, which he will operate with brothers Steve and Scott.

But Mr. Betz is targeting a younger clientele.

"It's not so much a pool hall as a place for kids to go," he said. "Seventy percent of the college population isn't old enough to drink. It gives them an alternative to loitering and drinking in bars."

He plans to keep the familiar Finkelstein's sign in place at the store.

"I don't want to change a thing," said the 30-year-old father of four. He also is leaving the cedar-shake roof and wide plank floors intact, and "recycling every two-by-four."

He recently signed a 10-year-lease that includes an option to buy the 6,400-square-foot store in the 400 block of York Road.

He and his family also run a similar operation that opened in May in Jacksonville.

"I plan to be around for awhile," said Mr. Betz, who grew up in the north Baltimore County community.

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